Poland uncertain about number of tanks sent to Ukraine

Soviet-designed T-72s were intended to replace Kiev’s battlefield losses

It is unclear how many tanks of the Soviet T-72 design the Polish military currently operates, because the public doesn’t know how many Warsaw has donated to Kiev, military analyst Damian Ratka has said.

Ratka’s comments came during an 80-minute about the future of Polish armor, hosted by the news portal Defence24. 

“We don’t really know how many T-72 tanks we have, because we don’t know exactly how many of them were transferred to Ukraine,” Ratka said. Kiev probably received at least 30 to 60 vehicles, but the actual numbers are not publicly available, he added.

Ratka’s estimates match what then-PM Mateusz to send Ukraine in January 2023: 60 tanks in total, half of them T-72M1 and the other half PT-91 Twardy, the Polish upgrade of the Soviet-era MBT. However, at the time Morawiecki also said that Poland had supplied “about 250” T-72s to Ukraine.

Warsaw first it had donated some of its T-72s in April 2022, but would not give any numbers. Prior to that, the Czech Republic and Slovakia had already supplied Kiev with Soviet-era armor, intended to replace the vehicles lost in the battles with the Russian military.

Morawiecki also pledged to send 14 of the German-made Leopard 2 vehicles to Kiev, later clarifying that the promise was to pressure Berlin into doing the same. It was unclear whether any Polish Leopards were actually sent to Ukraine.

Hyped by the Western and Ukrainian press as wonder-weapons that would win the war, the Leopards ended up getting destroyed in large numbers during the Zaporozhye offensive last summer.

Speaking about the future of Polish armored forces, Ratka noted that Warsaw is operating some T-72s and PT-91s still, as well as three versions of the Leopard 2 and an unspecified number of the US-made Abrams and South Korean K2 ‘Black Panther’ MBTs.

Poland has made plans to buy more than 350 Abrams tanks, including 250 of the newer M1A2 model, Ratka said, as well as 180 or so K2s. Credit problems have troubled the planned purchase from Seoul, however.

Ratka added that Poland was planning to shut down the facilities producing spare parts for the Soviet legacy systems, as it could not manufacture some of the key components, such as turrets and engines. The fate of the remaining T-72s and PT-91s was uncertain, he noted, suggesting that they might end up being sent to Ukraine as well.